Northern Ireland

Censorship claim over removed YouTube band videos

A bandsman plays a flute during a parade Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Flute bands are considered an important part of Ulster loyalist culture

YouTube has come under fire for removing some videos featuring loyalist band parades from its website.

The company said many forms of cultural expression were allowed on the video-sharing website but it did not allow content that promotes what it calls proscribed terror organisations.

It said some of the videos removed featured parades of the banned Red Hand Defenders.

The Progressive Unionist Party accused YouTube of censorship over the action.

However, it is understood that some of the videos removed were reinstated on Monday.

When the BBC contacted YouTube to ask why they had taken that decision, the website said it had nothing more to say.

'Unforgivable'

The Red Hand Defenders is a loyalist paramilitary group, which is included on the UK's proscribed terrorist organisation list.

It was formed in 1998, and:

  • Carried out a bomb blast that led to the death of a Portadown policeman in September 1998
  • Murdered a Catholic man in north Belfast in October 1998
  • Killed lawyer Rosemary Nelson in a Lurgan car bomb in April 1999 - its most notorious attack
Image copyright AP Photo/Peter Morrison
Image caption The Red Hand Defenders murder lawyer Rosemary Nelson in a car bomb attack

There are a number of flute bands knows as the Red Hand Defenders, footage of some could still be found on YouTube on Monday morning.

The Red Hand Defenders Downpatrick was formed in 1981 whilst Red Hand Defenders Newtownstewart was formed in 1979.

On its Facebook page, the Red Hand Defenders, Newtownstewart, said YouTube's actions were "unforgivable".

"Thousands of hours of documented footage of marching bands through the work of volunteers disappeared overnight," it said.

'Expression of culture'

The chairman of the Ulster Unionist Councillors' Association, Councillor Trevor Wilson said YouTube's move had caused a lot of anger.

"The local band scene is thriving and is a key part of unionist culture, providing a great deal of colour and musical skill throughout the summer months, and is the source of pleasure and enjoyment for tens of thousands of people," he said.

"There is a great deal of anger out there that a number of accounts have been closed without explanation or warning, and hundreds of hours of footage lost as a result," he added.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said that the the removed videos are of sentimental and educational value.

"In my view, they do not breach any community guidelines," he said.

"YouTube, however, have other ideas and I'd like to hear their justification for censoring videos that depict a legitimate expression of culture."

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